Family Holidays – A Work in Progress
After weeks of planning, purchasing, and preparing, I am always a little in awe of the amount of work associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas. When one has four grown children and five grandchildren, and they all alight from different parts of the country at once, the struggle is real.
In the midst of the chaos and holiday hilarity, I don’t always embrace the joy of togetherness; rather I often distance myself by straightening, instructing, picking up after the little ones, and silently praying for self-control. It has been around eight years since I’ve had multiple kids in my house full-time, and to be honest, I really enjoy the non-kid quiet. Also the fact that I can walk into any room in my house and admire the perfect order.
I admit it, I am a recovering neatness addict; a work in progress. Each year, I make a little more progress, which according to my kids is not exactly accurate, but I know in my heart I am taking baby steps toward being more “Mary,” and less “Martha,” for you Bibliophiles out there.*
For instance, when a four-year old boy (or was it the six-year old? I forget) knocks over someone’s glass of wine, I can be thankful that I preventatively and wisely replaced the white carpet with tile when we moved into this house six months ago. This year, I didn’t scream in dismay at the widening purple stain and broken glass, I was genuinely concerned that the child’s bare feet might be cut by the broken glass. Cleaning up is a snap with tile floors. No harm done, plus I gave myself a little pat on the back for choosing compassion over freaking out about a stained rug.
We are all a work in progress, all pilgrims doing our best on our life-pilgrimages, and we need to cut each other some slack. This year I had two entire weeks to work on the cutting-each-other-some-slack part.
Before you judge me, gentle reader, tell me, how long has it been (fellow sixty-somethings in particular) since you had three children under the age of six , plus a newborn, a twelve-year old and their respective parents under your downsized, 2100-square-foot roof for two weeks? I cannot with equanimity say I loved every minute. I loved ninety percent of the minutes. The chaotic, loud, messy ten percent tripped me up a little.
Deep breath. Everyone together now, repeat after me: We are all a work in progress.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12: 2 HCSB
Doesn’t the route to ecstatic, tear-filled, delight usually come with bits of turmoil hanging off its edges? For me it does. I find the turmoil, though uncomfortable, has merit. Through large or small family conflict, if we are brave and honest in our communication with other, we win. Our relationships are stronger, our words more effective, our compassion deeper. With prayer and God’s wisdom, if we are willing to wade into the troubled waters and flail around a little, our relationships will not sink but thrive.
I am so very grateful that my kids still want to come see me, spend time with me, and suffer through my sometimes snippy comments. I am grateful they are all smart, happy (for the most part), healthy, and making a productive dent in their chosen fields. I am grateful my grandkids are loved and nurtured and adored. I am grateful the marriages have not fallen apart, and in fact, are getting stronger. I am grateful that my kids and I talk often, are interested in each other’s lives, and encourage each other to keep going. I am grateful for their deepening faith in Christ. I am grateful to hear the same words tumbling from their mouths to their children’s ears that tumbled from my mouth to their ears when I raised them. Some of the good stuff stuck, thank God.
I would know none of this if we hadn’t been squished together for two weeks, forced to talk to each other, plan things, watch the little ones, fix meals together, and go to a lovely Christmas Eve service together. Messy, yes; irritating sometimes, but overall, priceless. It may be years before all of us are together again, and I am sad about that.
I sit here now, on New Year’s Day, 2016, in a quiet house. The last of the families left this morning. Already, the laundry is done, the toys are put away, the stack of odds and ends left behind is piled up, ready to mail. The TV blares from the den with its ubiquitous football-speak, and I think about having a piece of the peanut butter pie my daughter made for one of our holiday meals. Order restored, and the day isn’t even over yet.
I wonder what would have happened if my primary focus had been to enjoy?
Too late now.
*Luke 10: 39-42